CUMBERLAND — With state Rep. Meredith Strang Burgess opting not to run for a fourth term in House District 108, two other Cumberland residents are vying to take her place.
Stephen Moriarty, a Democrat who is chairman of the Cumberland Town Council and an attorney, is facing Republican Joseph Kumiszcza, an entrepreneur and business leader.
District 108 includes Cumberland and a portion of North Yarmouth.
Kumiszcza, 56, is married and president of Online Associate, a marketing firm he founded in 2008. He is also executive director of TechMaine, an online community for Maine’s technology sectors. He was the first employee at the original TechMaine and then founded a new version in July, and has also served as a business and marketing director in other capacities.
Kumiszcza has no prior elected political experience, but has spent time in Augusta while with TechMaine working on legislation, such as a “fund of funds” bill through which a $100 million private venture fund would be created for Maine technology businesses. He also served on the Blaine House Conference on Maine’s Creative Economy, received a gubernatorial appointment to the Maine Jobs Council, and participated in a governor’s trade mission to Canada.
Kumiszcza is also a member of the Cumberland-North Yarmouth Lions Club, for which he has created a website.
He said he has a history of being bipartisan, and that he looks to the technology sectors to shape Maine’s next economy. He said he knows what the sector needs, and how to put programs in place to benefit that sector, “which is high-paying jobs, without the creating a lot of bureaucracy and regulations.”
“I’ve got bold ideas,” Kumiszcza said, “and my goal is to create a stronger university system, and a more responsive university system, so that we can finally have a catalyst to grow our economy.”
Moriarty, 62, is married and has two daughters. He is an attorney with Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, a Portland firm. He served on the Cumberland Town Council from 1987 to 1993, and then again from 1997 to the present day. If elected to the House, he said he would step down from the council.
Moriarty has served on the town’s Charter Commission; the Twin Brook Advisory, Rines Forest, Route 88, Route 100, Veterans Memorial, Cumberland/North Yarmouth Joint Standing and Main Street committees; the Patten Free Library advisory board, and the Val Halla Board of Trustees.
Moriarty was also on the Maine Municipal Association Legislative Policy Committee.
In making Maine a more business-friendly state, Moriarty said, “we have to look very hard at the regulatory processes that pertain to business, starting from those who are self-employed, and who are small employers … all the way up to the larger businesses.”
It is important to ensure the regulations make sense, are not duplicated or unduly burdensome, and do not put the state at a competitive disadvantage with its immediate neighbors, he said.
If elected, Kumiszcza said he would try to pass legislation that would enable Maine companies to work with the University of Maine system, assured that their technology would not be divulged to other companies.
“It makes it real hard for a smart Maine business to work with the university system, knowing that whatever they work on, their competitors can get a hold of,” Kumiszcza said.
He would also work to ensure that rules for independent contractors are favorable for those contractors and employers alike, he said.
If Maine were to statistically benchmark itself against other states, if would look like this state spends more on welfare, “and we spend more because we don’t have the economy to get people to work at good-paying jobs,” Kumiszcza said.
“So my goal is to create a more responsive university system, and also deal with legislation that can work in the public schools, and promote more blended learning approaches, so that whether it’s K-12, or post-secondary, students are getting the education they need,” he said, noting the importance of education “for the next century, and not for the past century.”
“I think the statistics show that we do spend more than the national average, and more than the regional average,” Moriarty said. “It’s hard for me to say that we spend too much, because I think the need is substantial, particularly in some of the more rural parts of the state, and there are a great many people who have in effect nowhere else to turn, both for health care and for daily sustenance.”
Breaking the cycle of poverty is a multi-faceted task, he said. That task includes continued strong support for public education, from K-12 to the university and community college systems, as well as investing in research and development in areas like biotechnology and wind power, not just to attract and retain new types of business, but also to provide new types of employment for Maine’s young adults.
Moriarty said he supports the development of alternative energy sources in Maine. That development should be subsidized by the government, but only to an extent, and not on an unlimited basis, he noted.
“To the extent that a really hot prospect needs sort of a helping hand up, and holds a lot of promise which is fairly verifiable, I can support the concept of state backing, but not indefinitely,” Moriarty said.
Development of alternative energy sources should be through the private market, Kumiszcza said, noting that the Maine Technology Institute has grants available to fund that.
“My feeling has always been, if the government is in the business of trying to pick winners and losers, they’re not going to do it right,” he said. “… I think that there are some federal grants, through federal agencies, that work well. But they should be competitive grants; they shouldn’t just be a handout of money.”
He said he favors an investment by the government in research and development of alternative energy resources, as long as it is done through a competitive process. He said he does not support handouts or “crony-capitalism.”
Concerning state referendum Question 1, which if approved would allow marriage certificates to be issues to couples of the same gender, Kumiszcza said he does not believe the government should be in the marriage business at all.
“My feeling is, strike marriage from any government … rules, let individuals be with whom they want,” he said. “If they want to get married, let a church marry them … If folks want to be married in the church of their choice, then I don’t care what sex they are.”
Moriarty said he supports the question. “I believe that marriage should be an option available to people in love,” he said, “regardless of who it is that they love.”